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Comet madness : how the 1910 return of Halley's comet (almost) destroyed civilization  Cover Image Book Book

Comet madness : how the 1910 return of Halley's comet (almost) destroyed civilization / Richard J. Goodrich.


Halleys Comet visits the earth every seventy-five years. Since the dawn of civilization, humans had believed comets were evil portents. In 1705, Edmond Halley liberated humanity from these primordial superstitions (or so it was thought), proving that Newtonian mechanics rather than the will of the gods brought comets into our celestial neighborhood. Despite this scientific advance, when Halleys Comet returned in 1910 and astronomers announced that our planet would pass through its poisonous tail, newspapers gleefully provoked a global hysteria that unfolded with tragic consequences. In Comet Madness, author and historian Richard J. Goodrich examines the 1910 appearance of Halleys Comet and the ensuing frenzy sparked by media manipulation, bogus science, and outright deception. The result is a fascinating and illuminating narrative history that underscores how we behave in the face of potential calamity then and now. As the comet neared Earth, scientists and journalists alike scrambled to get the story straight as citizens the world over panicked. Popular astronomer Camille Flammarion attempted to allay fears in a newspaper article, but the media ignored his true position that passage would be harmless; weather prophet Irl Hicks, publisher of an annual, pseudo-scientific almanac, announced that the comet would disrupt the worlds weather; religious leaders thumbed the Bibles Book of Revelation and wondered if the comet presaged the apocalypse. Newspapers, confident that there was gold in these alternate theories, gave every crackpot a megaphone, increasing circulation and stoking international hysteria. As a result, workmen shelved their tools, farmers refused to plant crops they would never harvest, and formerly reliable people stopped paying their creditors. More opportunistic citizens opened {28}comet insurance.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9781633888562
  • Physical Description: xii, 269 pages ; 24 cm
  • Publisher: Essex, Connecticut : Prometheus Books, [2023]

Content descriptions

Formatted Contents Note:
Subject: Halley's comet > History.

Available copies

  • 1 of 1 copy available at Consortium of Ohio Libraries. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Community Library (Sunbury).


  • 0 current holds with 1 total copy.
Show Only Available Copies
Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Community Library (Sunbury) 523.642 Goo (Text) 30210313180373 New Books Available -

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